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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm about to throw down on a new raft. I'm 45 and been running old gear my entire life.

My love is river. I've never been a gear junkie. A boat is a boat as long as it gets me on the river. I've run big boats, small boats, buckets, bailers, rafts and cats, some held air and most were ugly. I am unashamed. If it gets me on the river I'm all grin. But it's time for a new boat.

I'm mostly concerned with experience. Will a new boat change how I play with the river? Will I be less likely to shoot sketchy lines? Or will a modern boat give me confidence to eat more rocks?

I am considering:
Sotar 14 SL Love the rocker style of the straight section. Hauls like a 15, maneuvers like a 13.
Maravia 15 Zephyr Fits my existing frame and Maravia just makes a sleek looking raft.

Urethane is a new material to me. How does it slide over rocks? Is it durable like hypalon? Will I have to start caring about rubs when parked next to other boats/rocks? These are American companies and I assume they are good to do business with?

This forum is a goldmine of advice and I'm honored to be here. What do you know about these boats?
 

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So what are you yeeting? I am not young, but I find no definition that would fit here. Maravia's are really, really tough. I know nothing about Sotar but I don't think either of them are made of urethane. Maravia should be a PVC that is coated with urethane. Only you know how you will play with the river. I personally don't like to 'eat rocks' in a new or old boat.
 

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So what are you yeeting? I am not young, but I find no definition that would fit here. Maravia's are really, really tough. I know nothing about Sotar but I don't think either of them are made of urethane. Maravia should be a PVC that is coated with urethane. Only you know how you will play with the river. I personally don't like to 'eat rocks' in a new or old boat.
Sotars are made of urethane apparently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yeet
verb -- to heave or cast away with great effort, usually while expressing a verbal representation of the same.

Seeing how these rafts cost $7,000, yeet seems to fit.

I've seen guys who buy new trucks, and suddenly they find themselves unwilling to do what they used to do. The upgraded truck downgrades their lifestyle. They used to explore rugged mountain trails and take firewood for camping. Now they don't leave the asphalt.

If I get a new boat, I don't want it to keep me from doing what I love which includes low-water runs and trying sketchy lines. That's why I'm asking about the durability of these urethane rafts. A $7k boat ought to outperform its predecessors, or am I just paying for the shiny new appearance? I don't care about status. I want a good boat I can grow old with.
 

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There's so much information that might influence your decision. Others on here will probably be better equipped to speak to the differences in construction, but I'll try to add what I've gained from firsthand experience.

To start, both Maravia and Sotar are great companies. I wouldn't hesitate to work with either one. That said, both have, in the past, gone through rougher patches. There was a generation of Maravias that developed pinhole leaks, just as there was an era of delamination in Sotars. I can't speak to the overall prevalence of either issue, just know that some folks' take on these boats are colored by what happened in the past. Both companies have great design features.

The overall shape of the boat being equal (tube size, rocker profile, etc) there are two factors that I look to when evaluating a boat's performance: stiffness and floor design. Urethane and PVC boats are generally stiffer than hypalon or neoprene, and will accept a higher pressure. The result is a boat that (again, all things being equal), tracks better, accelerates quicker, and responds more "crisply" to your inputs. The flip side is that (again, all things being equal) a stiffer boat will overturn more easily in a hole or off a wave. So, you're trading performance for forgiveness. AIRE's are an exception here in that water they hold in the floor acts as ballast against flipping. Rocks complicate the equation, in that a stiffer boat is less likely to wrap, but a less rigid boat will slide more easily over rocks.

Tracking is also determined in great part by the floor. I-beam floors make a world of difference. You won't notice the advantage if you're the kind of boater who tends to drift at the speed of the current, but if you're driving your raft like a kayak, those I-beams are a game-changer. I bring this up specifically because Maravia has stuck with their flat-bottom design. If you want to make a Maravia track better it helps to deflate the floor a bit, which is a bit of a bummer because the high-pressure, platform-like floor is a nice feature otherwise. If you're used to bucket boats--which in my experience track really, really well--then you might struggle to get used to a Maravia. Hard to say without rowing one.

So, all that to say that if I were looking for a boat that would not just get me down the river, but really feel like a performance increase I would be after a Sotar. That's just personal preference, and also a bit of fantasy, given the cost. If the funds are there, you might also check out Wing Inflatables.
 

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Just saw your last comment. Since you bring up durability, I'll add the following anecdotal info. Our local pro repair guy states that it's way harder to do a proper job on patching a Sotar, but that the Maravia urethane goes on quite easily. The sewn-in Maravia floor is a significant advantage too. If you totally shred your floor, you can just send it to Boise, or buy a new one. Been there...
 

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I get part of your question, I run an old truck so I can beat the crap out of it and not care how many dents and scratches and cans of paint get spilled on it....but I gotta say changing from an older boat to a shiny new hyside rig has made me more comfortable on the water, I haven't changed attitudes, still charge for the hard line, but it is easier to flip back over now :) yeet that shit brother
 

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The brands you mentioned are both high end, you can't go wrong. I have a Sotar, and I ripped a big Ol' hole in the floor, I suppose it would have happened in any raft, who knows. I think the Sotar is awesome, I loved designing it and customizing it like crazy, and spared no expense outfitting it, but it was soooo expensive. I viewed it as a huge splurge, I know my raft is way more expensive than it needs to be but, I still love it and its still cheaper than a sports car.... As far as an old boat vs a new one, once you push off your committed so you can't change your mind bc you're afraid of messing up a boat :)
 

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Buy some of the best repair material you can find, and put a patch on your boat, topside, in a conspicuous place.
If you still find yourself taking care of your raft (instead of letting it take care of you), inflate to max & stick a knife in it.
Now that your boat has lost its "virginity," toss it in a river and go have fun with it. It's a good boat. It's a GREAT boat. And until you hear a giant "PFFFFFFF-t-t-t-bb-bb-b-b-b" .... you'll never really know it.
Really, it helps to get a bunch of scuffs and scratches before the first holes are made. They are less traumatic that way. A well executed riverside repair is a liberating event, and should last for many years. Now go have fun! Lots of it. That's what boats are made for ... not to "preserve" until some warranty runs out! My old Avons were antiques before Noah learned boatbuilding. A pot of glue, sandpaper, toluol, and a generous scrap of hypalon always gave me the confidence to start a trip. That's the stuff I might need to get me home.
 

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The brands you mentioned are both high end, you can't go wrong. I have a Sotar, and I ripped a big Ol' hole in the floor, I suppose it would have happened in any raft, who knows
Check out Vanguard. Commercial grade. 3600 denier full wrap floor. Very stiff and responsive if you are looking for a PVC raft. Not certain what you hit; the Vanguard is super durable as well as affordable.

There are pros and cons for raft materials as mentioned above. And having a beater 4x4 rig is a great way to go too. Never mind a scratch! However I'd rather have new rubber, frame etc., And still have money for more accessories, IK, and beer.

Great thing about America is that we have choices, lots of them. Hats off to all the folks who get us on the water! Let's go boating
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you all so much. There is good insight here. It has cleared my head. Private boaters are reliably decent, and this forum reflects that fact.

I have a few new things to settle and then... pull the trigger! I'm feeling a little pressure. My gut tells me the wait time to get a boat built will double after lottery results come in. A bunch of lucky dogs will order a new boat for that Yampa permit they just won. Or maybe... just maybe... that dog will be me! I mean, it will happen eventually, right?

Still looking for insight. I've settled on high end, and am also looking at Aire and Wing. I understand I can't go wrong with these brands. The rest of my considerations pertain to the finer points. Then I shall yeet that thing!
 

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I ran Wing's commercially, and they are awesome. Very durable and high performance. I bought a used Sotar SL, and it's also awesome, but I would still rather have a Wing :). It sounds like you have a ran a lot of boats over the years. If you are that comfortable with taking some sketcky line's, just keep that same mentality with you new boat, and you will probably make them more often :) The urethane boats (wing/sotar) can take a ton of abuse. It's interesting, I thought Maravia was PVC, which isn't as easy to repair. Hypalon will be the easiest to repair. If you are ever going to roll the boat, that may be another consideration. A Hyside will roll to about 1/3 the size of either PVC/Urethane will.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
If you are ever going to roll the boat, that may be another consideration. A Hyside will roll to about 1/3 the size of either PVC/Urethane will.
I do roll my boats. Always. I considered weight. I like to heave a boat/frame by myself if necessary. I did not consider roll size, and that is also important. I've never been a fan of PVC and thus never owned one.

My buddy was getting ready to buy a river truck for out of state runs. He found a super clean, one owner, GMC ext cab long bed 4x4 with 97k for $8,000. It's a no brainer deal. I told him I would purchase the Sotar SL as soon as he did. I'm scared to call him now, lol. I need to commit. The indecision and hesitation is stressing me. Buy boat. Build frame. Get wet. Easy stuff. Thanks for the post.
 

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Don’t let it scare you off. I love my Sotar, and it fit’s (rolled) in the back of a pickup just fine, taking up less than 1/4 of the truck bed. It’s more of a space thing if it’s stored in the corner of the garage. Happy for you, whatever you end up with will be great!
 

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14' janky cat (Los Dos), 9.5' Thundercloud (Pumpkin Butt), 44" Rocktabomb (Time-Out Tube)
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If you're worried about new rubber throwing off your groove, you just need to make sure your first trip is at low water with a bunch of super mandatory rock scrapes so you're immediately forced to get over your hesitancy. Then every trip after that in a new boat will be amazing.

I finally replaced my super old leaky Downriver tubes with some AIREs and I was so happy. Not topping off before rapids and every morning is fantastic. I was in the opposite side of the "new truck syndrome" where I was nervous to take my boat on long overnights because the seams all started to leak and I was worried I would get in a situation halfway down the river where the whole tube just fell apart on a rock (probably fairly irrational) so new tubes were a game changer. I want to go all the places now.
 

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Maravia Zephyr (Lime) Aire River Couch (Also Lime)
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Maravia 15 Zephyr Fits my existing frame and Maravia just makes a sleek looking raft.
I wanted a Zephyr for a lot of years before I could afford one. Finally bought it in 2016 and I absolutely love it. If you go that route, you won't be disappointed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I wanted a Zephyr for a lot of years before I could afford one. Finally bought it in 2016 and I absolutely love it. If you go that route, you won't be disappointed.
I did buy a Zephyr. Baby blue. It will be here next week. It's not going to sit around long. I think Rogue river is a fine maiden run. I plan to transport the boat rolled, and I know that's not it's strong point but I hate pulling trailers long distance. I plan to wrap it in a moving blanket inside of a tarp. Should be okay...
 

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FYI, rafts are going SUPER fast this year. I guess there were some major delays in manufacturing in Asia due to Covid. And Im pretty sure this effects the American made brands too bc they still get their materials from Asia. Im trying to buy a boat right now and sooo many are already spoken for.
 
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